Could F/X data create a new market inefficiency?

Eric P. Mull-US PRESSWIRE

The use of F/X data is already changing the sport, but what are some ways it could indirectly change it?

The rise of F/X data such as Hit F/X, Pitch F/X, and Field F/X has dramatically changed the way that we can view and analyze baseball. Teams that have employed these technologies have a huge advantage over teams that do not because they can learn more about defense, pitching, and hitting than any other team.

I also see another use for F/X data, albeit a smaller one.

With the increased usage of F/X technology at the pro-level (from the Majors to the Minors), teams could dramatically cut back on the need for pro scouting.

Bill Petti wrote about this a year ago at Beyond the Box Score, saying the following:

Every pitch of every major league game is now instantly digitized. Additionally, Many international, college, and even high school games are now available in digitized form, meaning they can be viewed much more rapidly after the actual game is played. In some cases, these games are streamed or broadcast. Additionally, with the increase in the ability to view games comes the ability to code and analyze pitch-by-pitch data from those games in a way that was hardly imaginable, say, 20 years ago. Certainly, we are far from a comprehensive Pitch F/X-like bevy of data on amateur players, but teams can still put together proprietary data (visual and statistical) based on these new data sources. In the past, teams would need to rely solely on in-person scouting for such inputs.

Bill also talks in that article about how it may cut down on the need for scouts and the effect that might have, but I wonder if it could lead us in a different direction.

I would propose that teams could, instead of shrinking their scouting departments, reorganize them so that they can better evaluate amateur players.

It is well-documented that the teams that do the best at developing their own players tend to perform better for longer stretches of time, but under MLB's new Collective Bargaining Agreement, it makes it difficult for teams to gain an advantage in that department without suffering at the Major League level.

Since teams cannot pour more financial resources into that area anymore, what else can they do?

I would propose that if a team were to install F/X technology in its own park and minor league parks, that they could cut back on the need for pro scouting dramatically. Now, unlike what Bill proposed, I think that teams could then reallocate these scouts to the amateur level. This would give certain teams advantages based on how quick they were to adapt, but it would be different from the financial advantages that teams could attain under the old CBA.

The new CBA places a premium on identifying the best players, as opposed to the old one which would allow teams to take chances on many different players. This means that if teams could gain an advantage in the information they have on draft-eligible players (as well as International Free Agents), then they could outperform other teams in the draft and other areas of amateur talent evaluation.

Teams could assign area scouts to smaller amounts of land, which would allow them to inspect the players in that area closer than other teams could. This would not only allow them to know about players that other teams may not, but it could also give teams more reports on players with which to balance with one another.

The idea certainly has its pitfalls, mainly the fact that they would still need to scout teams' minor leaguers in other leagues. While teams could cut back on their pro scouting, they would still need scouts to see the other leagues, and even their own teams to catch things like mechanical and make-up flaws that computers would miss. The point of my idea is that they could move around some of their pro scouts to make them amateur scouts.

While it would not eliminate the need for pro scouts completely, teams could drastically remodel their scouting departments to gain more information about players that are difficult to gain information on. Pro leagues have reliable statistics, and if they also add F/X data we could tell a lot about them without needing to see them first-hand. The basis of this idea is to accumulate information where it is lacking.

What do you guys think? Can teams use F/X data to gain an advantage in the amateur scouting field?

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